The Arab Alliance for Freedom and Democracy received the news of the verdict on the young Saudi blogger Raef Badawi to 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes, along with a fine of more than $ 250,000 dollars for insulting Islam, with deep surprise and disturbance.

While the Alliance denounces any disrespect or attack on religions, it confirms that the blogger Raef Badawi was working to provide a platform for free expression and participation for the development of his native Saudi Arabia, which he is proud of.

The Arab Alliance urges the responsible authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to encourage young people and give them the opportunity to express their views and contribute to the construction of a homeland of freedom and progress.

The Arab Alliance calls on the Saudi authorities to release blogger Raef Badawi, giving an example of forgiveness and to encourage freedoms and contribution to the nation building.

The Future Bloc in the Lebanese Parliament denounced the Israeli blatant airspace aggression on the Lebanese eastern border. In a statement, it demanded that the Lebanese army & the specialized agencies provide clear information on the nature and exact place of aggression so that government could take the necessary action. The statement went on with condemning the recent terrorist bombardment of one Lebanese army base in the city of Hermel which resulted in the death of two soldiers and innocent citizens. The Future Bloc furthermore specified the steps of facing terrorism which are: Hizbullah’s withdrawal from Syria, control of Lebanese borders by army & international forces based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 from 2006, and the unification of plans and efforts of all security apparatuses to confront terrorist acts in Lebanon.   

The National Constituent Assembly will vote on the new constitutional draft in a first step towards restoring democracy following disputes between the governing Islamist and opposing secular parties that emerged in the aftermath of the downfall of the former president’s regime in 2011.

The adoption of the constitution is a crucial step to end the crisis between Islamists and secular parties before new elections, set to be held later this year, can take place. However, the voting process is disrupted by ongoing tensions between the various members of the constituent assembly.

Ahmed Najib El Chabbi, who was himself a candidate in the presidential election of 2009 and is now representing the Republican Opposition Party in the Constituent Assembly, said that the constitutional draft gives the president more powers than necessary.

Voting on the constitutional draft started on the 3rd of January, and has involved not only several altercations but also many brawls.

Khodir, the General Rapporteur and member of the ruling Islamic Renaissance Movement, mentioned that one of the main causes for this tension is the extent of responsibility imposed on all members of the Constituent Assembly.

Khodir said that “we hope that these events are transient and that we will be able to surpass them, by God’s will. The reasons for these developments are probably the intensity of work, the high level of stress and the pressure felt due to the great importance of the constitutional text."

The rift between the Islamists and the secular parties on the role of religion in the country has widened since the 2011 uprising, especially after two secular politicians were assassinated by Islamist militants.

The drafting of the new constitution in Tunisia already began two years ago, however the adoption of the document was delayed due to the above-mentioned disagreement regarding the role of religion in politics and the escalation between the governing Renaissance Movement and its secular opponents.

Noman Fihri, Founding Member of the party “Prospects for Tunisia”, stated that it is extremely difficult to reach consensus on the Constitution’s articles.  This is particularly true as disputes arise not only between the parties, but also within the parties themselves.

Amira El Yahyaoi, president of “Compass Association”, mentioned that a harsh dispute took place between two deputies of the renaissance movement. According to her, tensions erupted between MP Mania Brahim and MP Mahrziah Labeidi on the topic of women's rights. She added that the division within the renaissance movement has grown with the course of the ongoing voting.

Voting did not even break for the holiday on the occasion of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and was scheduled to end on Tuesday, January 14 - the third anniversary of the ouster of Ben Ali. But continuing differences will likely lead to the continuation of voting for several more days.

Ibrahim Mehleb, Housing Minister for the former government, declared to Al Ahram Newspaper that he has officially been appointed Prime Minister by interim president Adli Mansour.

Presidential elections are expected to take place within months and it is also expected that General Abdel Fattah El Sisi – the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces - will run for presidency, upon resignation from his current position.

The resignation of El Beblawi’s government came as a surprise as it was presumed that only minor changes would take place. However, it seems that the government was put under considerable pressure by huge labor protests.

El Beblawi did not give any reasons for his resignation, but officials told Reuters that it was a step prior to El Sisi’s announcement of running for presidency.

Mehleb, born in 1949, studied engineering at Cairo University and worked for the ‘Arab Contractors’ company until he reached the position of Chief Executive Officer.

Supporters of Mehleb say that he is dynamic and close to the lay people.

Oppositionists say he was a leader in the National Democratic Party (NDP), which was headed by Hosni Mubarak and was dissolved following the 25 January revolution.

The government’s resignation came at a time during which Egypt is witnessing several strikes in governmental departments and state-owned factories to demand better wages, reflecting anger over deteriorating living conditions caused by the economic crisis due to the political instability over the last three years.   

The annual inflation rate in Egypt reached 11.6% last January, according to official data of the Central Bank of Egypt. 

Voters headed to polling stations to elect members of the constituent assembly that will draft new constitution.

649 candidates are competing all over the country – divided into 3 regions, each of which will have 20 seats in the constituent assembly (including 5 seats for women). 6 seats were assigned for minorities; Tabu, Tuareg, and Amazigh. However, the latter will boycott the vote claiming that there is no mechanism that guarantees their cultural rights in the new constitution.

The head of the National Commission for Libyan Elections - Nuri al-Abbar, has called on Libyans who have registered for the election to go to the polling stations with “hearts full of glory and pride, to begin the construction process and attain the hope of the martyrs for freedom and prosperity.”

It is remarkable that more than a million voters are registered to vote and select the members of the constituent assembly that will draft the new constitution.